So much for ‘doubling down’ on secrecy: Why Apple can no longer manage to keep secrets

“Just a few months after Tim Cook pledged to ‘double down’ on the company’s already tight secrecy policies, Apple Inc. unveiled its most important product of the year — and managed to surprise no one,” Therese Poletti writes for MarketWatch. “And while a corporate chieftain like Cook might easily bemoan the legions of press hounds, bloggers and analysts constantly digging for tidbits on the company, it’s worth considering the alternative. What if Apple spent months developing some great product, and no one cared?”

Poletti writes, “Which is another way of saying that the leaks and slips that now effectively ruin the surprise at the company’s popular events are indicative of the company’s runaway success, and not a hinderance to it. Apple unveiled its iPhone 5 on Wednesday at one of its typically packed press events in San Francisco. Even though nearly every detail of the new iPhone 5 had been predicted and pontificated upon for weeks in advance, the tech press, pundits and even a former vice president still flocked to the scene.”

“It seems too early to say whether the Steve Jobs-inspired culture that kept staffers mum has really changed. Apple’s secretive culture is still likened to both the CIA and the Kremlin, an issue that reared its head when Jobs’s health worsened and he tried to keep the details private — with some success,” Poletti writes. “Secrecy and the art of saying nothing seems to be so ingrained in the DNA of Apple employees that it would be hard to imagine any of them being forthcoming on any topic. There is still a lot of mystique associated with not saying much at all. Even so, as the hordes line up for the new iPhone on Sept. 21, will anyone seriously be thinking, ‘Oh, I am not going to buy the iPhone 5 because it’s exactly what everyone said it would be.’ I don’t think so.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Money. There’s so much money in AAPL now, that to keep something like iPhone 5 largely a secret is virtually impossible. And, for the most part, it’s not Apple employees who are leaking, it’s the third-party assemblers in China. This ship isn’t leaking from the top. If Cook wants to stop the leaks, he’ll need the strict cooperation of Apple’s assemblers and suppliers. If anything, we’re surprised future Apple products don’t leak out of China even more than they do now.

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Pre-orders sold out in one hour, Apple pushes iPhone 5 shipment dates out by two weeks – September 14, 2012
iPhone 5 pre-orders sell out in one hour, 22 times faster than iPhone 4S, further spotlighting Apple’s dominance – September 14, 2012

53 Comments

  1. Say what you will about Al Gore but I think he’s proud as punch of his association with Apple (rightfully so) and the fact it’s THE most successful American company and for all Americans it should be cherished and be a company to be proud of. I feel sorry for Canadians who felt the same about RIM and wish it was they and not Android that held second place. But then since that probably won’t happen I guess it’s a forlorn hope Microsoft & Nokia will step up to the annihilate Android plate. These are amazing times ain’t they? A regular tech soap opera – “As the Apple Turns, these are the tech drama of our times.”

      1. Bring on the robots. That’s how it will happen in America, if manufacturing ever comes back at all. This was a dream of Steve’s wasn’t it? At least in the early days? I recall some quote about “turning out the lights” in the factory. “Robots don’t need light to produce”. Something like that…

        1. The robots are already in China. Did you watch the video vs how the iPhone5 gets its back panels put on.???? Cameras take a picture of the back plate and then decide which of 750 panels should be used.

          Scary. Micron tolerances… (That is 1 millionth of a meter)

          1. Yeah, but that’s something robots can do better and faster than humans, without having to kill anyone. They have a place in manufacturing.

            Where robots do NOT have a place is in warfare. The development of human killing machines is the height of human cowardice and psychopathic behavior. But I think I’ll get off that rant and go have tea. Tea is so civilized. 😉

            1. Derek, I like where you’re taking this. I long for the return to yesteryear when kings and dukes (in today’s world would be presidents, prime ministers, senators, MPs) would lead their troops in battle. One on one. Axes to axes. None of this cowardly long-distance stuff like artillery or the trebuchet, rockets or drones, bombs or mortars.

              Better still: Settle quarrels not with armies but matching chess masters against one another.

            2. You are in my karass Jesse.

              It’s self-destructive enough that we humans war each other. But to reduce our murders to machine-made…

              If only we could take our miraculous lives lightly enough to settle dire arguments with some simple game play, no murders or harm to others required. Responsibility rules. 😀

            3. WTF would you even go there? What a pompous person to erroneously intellectualize something as serious as war in order to satiate your ideological fantasies. One would have to be quite arrogant to condescend to know more than the people in charge of our (assuming you’re a westerner), security. Would you let the terrorists do as they wish? Do you presume al Qaeda has rational reasons to kill westerners? Would you prefer your child to fight terrorists with a knife? This is the absurdity of your thinking (or, more precisely, lack thereof). The drone strikes have been immensely successful, with minimal collateral damage, particularly to military personel.

              Would you like some advice on how to be “civilized”? Try some phoenix dan cong oolong from the Guangdong province of China, the best tea on earth.

            4. “One would have to be quite arrogant to condescend blahblahblah”

              This ‘intellectual’ has to point out that you mean ‘ascend’ blahblahblah. You’re attempting to put war mongers above me on the plain of intelligence, which of course perfectly fits the joke about ‘military intelligence’.

              “Would you let the terrorists do as they wish?”

              Using coward remote murder robots to kill people is itself blatant terrorism. Of course I would NOT let the terrorists running these ‘drones’ do as they wish, if that were within my control. It’s not. But my word are. They stand as I wrote them. Yours however FAIL by even most meagre of human morality. Drones used as weapons are immoral. That will never change. But obviously, your ignorance and immorality will not either.

              And of course you’re a fan of China: Criminal Nation, if not a sad resident of that hell hole country. I easily sympathize with the difficulties of living under a depressing totalitarian regime that never acknowledges the basic rights of humanity. I can easily see how you have become demented and immoral under their demented and immoral rule.

              I would never wish coward remote murder robots on anyone at any time. I find all war to be an obscene declaration of the inadequacy and self-destructive imperative of our species. But I would rather put myself with a sword in hand out on the field of battle, if required, to settle a dispute than to allow a coward remote murder robot to do it for me.

              Drones = Human Cowardly Immorality. Grow up and wake up your spirit.

              And let me point out that there are some simple equations in life. One is that “You get what you give.” If you send out coward remote murder robots to do your warring for you, expect the same in return. You’ll call them coward remote murder robots yourself when they come flying to kill everyone you love. This is human sickness at its worst.

              Hope for the hopeless: We humans were at least wise enough to create the Geneva Conventions as standards for the treatment of victims of war. You can read about them here:

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geneva_Conventions

            5. Oh and MY favorite tea is steamed, dried and ground Uji green tea from Japan, as long as it isn’t contaminated with Fukushima reactor fallout. There is nothing more stimulating and delicious.

              Also, Japanese green tea ice cream is heavenly. I once ate so much in Japantown, San Francisco that it gave me a headache, and I still didn’t want to stop. Mmmmm. 😀

            6. After reading your posts I’m not sure if you realize something. Are you aware that drones have human pilots and weapon release authority does not come from a computer chip. The remote pilots must receive it from their command authority before launch is initiated.
              Thes drones are no different from a fighter /bomber. Decisions to launch are always human driven.
              I prefer a civilized dialog without name calling. Actual communication of ideas has a better chance.

            7. I live within a few miles of one of the drone repair and testing stations. I know quite well how they work. I call it remote murder. Everything I have stated stands as I meant to say it. It is no wonder that even sitting thousands of miles away from these remote murder robots, the guys at the controls still suffer from PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They have a conscience. They are human. They are not psychopaths. But they are being told to perpetrate acts of cowardice from a distance. Why does anyone defend this insane tool of cowardice?

            8. “Why does anyone defend this insane tool of cowardice?”

              What is the alternative? I’m listening.
              The essence of war is not fair. The revolutionary war was fought at times by British men standing in ranks to mass fire. Brave men who knew they could die. The Americans responded with gorilla war. Using long range snipers who would pick off officers. The British cried “unfare” and “without honor.” Were the snipers cowards? You may think so, but their actions were a part of winning that war.

              My point is that war is a horrible thing that should be avoided. But if entered into should be fought to win. The guy in the drone pilot seat will at least live another day and go home to his/her family. The pilot in the field may not. Neither are cowards, and as you said suffer PTSD.

              Technology has made killing easy. That is why we have lost thousands and not tens of thousands in these wars. As terrible as this loss in life is it would not be right to “play fair”. The opposition has not from the beginning. There is no high road to take.

              One last thing. I believe his “War on Terror” will never end. (What a thing to say.) The war is not against a country or a government that will be pummeled into capitulation, but against a perverted form of an ancient religion that makes war in the name of God. It’s follower hate us not just because of the bombing. We could stop and leave at anytime. and the war would continue. They hate the west’s freedoms that allow “sin” to be freely practiced. The West will not change and there will always be fanatics. Just eleven years ago we saw the power of just a few, which is all it takes.

              Again, what is the alternative? I’m listening.

            9. What is the alternative? READ WHAT I WROTE. You already know my answer.

              The answer to terrorism is NOT to become the terrorists. Profound DUH Factor! Otherwise, you have stooped to their immoral level and become nothing better. Get it? Hello in there!

              Who has the higher moral ground here?

              Who is ‘civilized’ and who is the psychopathic murder squad?

              If you can’t tell them apart, what’s the damned point?!

            10. I need practical, Derek. Are you saying we die honorably on the higher ground Or do we change the world on higher ground (if so how). I appreciate your moral stand. I really do. But, what are the practical realities? Why would this war stop if we stopped the bombing and went away. ( didn’t you read what I said) tell me why. I really need to know.

            11. Phew. This subject goes deep for me. I was born not comprehending why humans kill one another, figuring out our real worst enemy, which is deceptive ‘truth’, which has huge ramifications regarding the human inability to know everything about anything, including in science. On and on.

              Then there is my interest and studies in animal behavior, including we humans. There is a self-destructive imperative in a profound number of people that I cannot comprehend. I am no psychologist. I have what amounts to a phobia when I encounter insane people, and that includes politicians. I have a lunatic for a Congresswoman where I live. Her nut job clonal concepts for ruining my country scare the willies out of me. But I digress.

              Terrorism is perpetrated by a remarkably few people. Seeking them out and bringing them to justice is a new and difficult skill we are required to learn. I know some meagre aspects of spooking and surveillance.

              What I know is that losing the clear moral ground for the sake of psychopathic murderers is itself insane and self-destructive. The very best response we should have had to the (ahem: INVENTED] ‘War On Terror’ proclaimed after the [ahem: ENABLED AND ENHANCE] 9/11 attacks was to prove to the world that we could:

              (A) Remain a level-headed moral country that did NOT stoop to terrorist tactics in response. We utterly FAILed at that and embarrassed the hell out of our country to the rest of the world then went all ballistic when they suitably criticized us for our illegal and invented war in Iraq, blahblahblah. Then we perpetrated cowardly remote murder robots with crap for software to control them and dedicated patriotic kids manning these horrors from afar. It’s no wonder suicides are escalating from all the phony and immoral warring we impose on our soldiers.

              (B) We could have asked the world to join us as sane, kind, moral crusaders to stop the psychopaths in general, including the terrorists.

              (C) We could have performed that ever forgotten vital last step required for every problem solution: VERIFICATION. Our country likes to be all up in the world’s face about our great democracy, except we are the #1 abuser of other people in the world, and the world notices. That’s hypocrisy on our part. We FAIL to make our actions match our words. The simple fact that the software for the drones is crap and we know it and the local video from the drones isn’t even encrypted shows just how careless we are about the entire drone escapade. Who’s the boss of this clown show that usually misses the target and kills innocent people instead, which we cover up with marketing jargon and published lies about the outcomes. We corrupt our nation and how it is perceived every damned day through are narcissism, ego, bravado and undeserved pride in ourselves. VERIFY that we are who we portend to be and FIX what is broken. Don’t just drive the steam roller over everyone and pretend we did it for anyone’s actual benefit.

              Lecturing much?

              Cowards = psychopaths = terrorists = politicians = Corporate Oligarchy executives with bucks to buy more cowards and psychopaths and terrorists to get the other terrorists and buy the politicians to boot We The People out of the Constitution to be replaced with corporate OVERLORDS, creating Neo-Feudalism with us as the peon serfs and indentured servants to the banks.

              And my head hasn’t exploded yet? IASSOTS.

              Why wouldn’t we want to respond to all this sickness by being what we claim to be: Real CHRISTIANS. Like it or not, Yeshua taught the opposite of war and murder. I wish ‘Christians’ would actually read and bother to understand exactly what Yeshua taught all of us.

              Equally, I wish all these fake ‘Tea Party’ tards could read, or would read and bother to comprehend the US Constitution they lie to themselves they’re patriotically defending. These self-destructive loons demand that we kill off our citizen rights, blatantly spelled out in the Constitution, and hand them over to the Corporate Oligarchy thugs and clowns. What madness is this?

              How’s that for a brain dump rant. You wanted more of my blethering, so there you go. If you want to chat off line, I’m at: derekcurrie at mac dot com. Just remind me in any email what we were talking about as I won’t remember.

              Now have at it ditto heads and other PoliTards. Hate on my rant above all you like while you get off on sadomasochism. Nothing new under the sun. Enjoy yourselves…

    1. That will be hard to do. The US would have to invest in creating the same environment that is in China similar to the one that used to exist around Detroit. back in the day you could order up Iron from Minnesota, Coal from West Virgina, smelt it in Pittsburgh and churn out car after car in Detroit. The same thing exists in China. They have the rare earth metals, internal transportation, the tech factories and they can spin on a dime to get geared up for new production. Currently the US cannot match that. We would need a lot of investment in infrastructure and vocational schooling to match that. I doubt we have the political will to invest in that.

      1. You said it without noticing. The environment. Those big manufacturing plants require big electric that would take years of EPA approval not to mention the NIMBY attitude we all have here in the States. In China, they build on average one new coal power plant per week. That would never happen here. Where else would the electric come from? Steve told The President flat out, those jobs [manufacturing] are not coming back.
        Agree with the rest of your statement.

        1. @ abcd In China, they build on average one new coal power plant per week.

          Have you ever visited China? I’ve been in several large cities in the late 1980s and even then the stench of sulfur from burning coal was incredibly strong. The haze of coal smoke that hung over the cities made LA look like a pristine Rocky Mountain meadow. Burn coal, pay the price.

      2. China didn’t create its environment, foreign investors saw the cheaper labour suitable to Chinas many jobless people.

        The cost of living was never invented. It happens on its own.

        Schooling?
        Those factory workers are trained on the job.
        And many lie about their credentials.
        Some are skilled. As are some Americans.

      3. Your biggest mistake is;
        you assume China helped its poor people – Wrong !!!!

        Foreign investment has. Pumping money into China has built the environment up for well over 40 years. Using cheap labour and profiting large has been the game. You don’t invent this. Business sees and takes advantage of that opportunity.

        To reverse that flow is impossible – as you say.
        Once the equilibrium of wealth and survival subsides and America is the new 3rd world country… when China wishes to use the very few Americas we still will have living as slaves…
        then things will be made here again. Sad yes. Sad yes… because the next portion of the equation is in numbers.
        Half the worlds population LIVES in CHINA.

        As the bible says – the weak shall inherit the world.
        China has been proving this steadily.
        While Singapore cruises on past China due to the number of people. Asia is won. The flow will never reverse not in your life time anyways.

    2. if you read business magazines you’ll find that a lot of companies in america CANNOT find enough qualified tech and factory workers. One company had to spend a year and offer bonuses to find the right technicians even after offering sign up bonuses. other companies are hiring engineers from India. And this is the recession.

      Yes there are unemployed factory workers in U.S but do they have the right training for high end tech?

      Look at North American schools, are they training people to be FACTORY workers in the tech industry? Kids want to be sports and rock stars. (my wife has a masters in Education from Chicago)

      Don’t want to write too long but I’ve spent years in Asia, the schools systems are quite different. N.American schools are more ‘well rounded’ – there are a lot of school outings to zoos, arts centers, music, plenty of sports etc. Asian kids spend all their time mugging maths and science ( a lot of rote learning and memorizing ) to pass KILLER GOVERNMENT EXAMS many times through their school career. Flunk the exams and you have to repeat or out of school. Don’t score perfect and no chance for college. High school maths in Asian countries like Singapore is way tougher than 1st year college U.S.A. China churns out millions of technicians and thousands of phds in science, engineering. Foxconn alone has thousands of engineers to supervise the factory lines.

      and these technicians work in factory conditions (repetitive etc) which most Americans (through the different school systems) have lost the ability to handle. (seriously how many american kids can sit down and screw in a component with tweezers 8 hours a day for months? Even working at Wal Mart is more interesting! )

      Education is just one aspect, infactructure, labour etc which others have talked about are others.

      For politicians, pundits etc who bemoan Apple etc for not opening factories in America, I say “YOU – the politician, pundit etc – do it and build a factory in U.S.A. I dare you to make it a success i.e make money. Then you are the shining example”

      Robots — if they build a lot of robot controlled factories — will that generate a lot of jobs?

      1. I AGREE and KNOW WELL your points here.
        Consider also,

        Yes, foxconn has a few highly qualified technicians to manage the teams of workers… How many of these highly qualified people do you think are needed?

        If factories are brought back to American, why not hire the few highly skilled technicians to over see the hundreds of common labour workers?

        Those labourers live on the premises, they are feed; the company takes some responsibility. So that situation could actually work in America. Sure it can.

        A long while ago, convicts (criminals) were put to work… making licence plates, crushing rock or maintaining highways. Boring work. No one in their right minds wishes to do laborious work. Eventually they wish to excel and improve. Boring work is forced… force by the basic NEED to SURVIVE.

        Once you have nothing; you will feel this.
        You will either steal your food or find a way to support the basic needs of life. Free government hand-outs doesn’t work. Help needs to come from the industry its self.

        Robots – its the answer.

      2. @fliminkuss: if you read business magazines you’ll find that a lot of companies in america CANNOT find enough qualified tech and factory workers…other companies are hiring engineers from India. And this is the recession.

        Actually companies are replacing American workers by snapping up Indians on H1B visas because they’re cheap labor over in the US. I saw first-hand how this happened as a major tech outfit in Silicon Valley laid off thousands then cried to the State Department to issue more B1B visas so they could get “better qualified” foreign workers who draw less than half the salary as an American worker. Truth.

    3. YES — bring the jobs home. What did Clint Eastwood say?
      20 million jobless. Change is needed.

      Immigrants from Mexico are willing to sacrifice and work at basic jobs… so should the mind set of America. Accept and work these factories like in China. However the cost of living here is way too high. In China they can find food and shelter at lower prices then America has to imagine.

      MDN “If Cook wants to stop the leaks, he’ll need the strict cooperation of Apple’s assemblers and suppliers.”

      Tim Cook Should put his words into action then. I heard he was doubling down on secrecy. Do it then.

      MDN – “If anything, we’re surprised future Apple products don’t leak out of China even more than they do now.”

      Silly comment MDN, All R&D is handled behind closed doors in America. Future products are always being developed – China has no part in this. Have you seen the new iPen? Was it leaked form China… what the heck MDN?

  2. Every iPhone iteration sells roughly double the last iteration. Because of that, the supply chain gets bigger and bigger. The more suppliers involved, the more likely the supply chain will leak secrets. It’s inevitable. Look at the list of suppliers Apple published with their Supplier Responsibility Report, it’s long, very long. That’s alot of people in the know.

  3. I believe the leaks were strategically planned by Apple itself. If you can’t keep the leaks from getting out, then control the leaks yourself. This has been a good move for Apple shareholders. In the past the rumors have always been waaaay out there and when the product was finally introduced it didn’t live up to the stratospheric hype, resulting in the stock taking a nose dive. This time however, by controlling the leaks and setting realistic expectations Apple has caused the stock price to shoot up, not down.

      1. having your companies name mentioned daily – negative or positive – in the media… could be controlled by Apple.

        creating the hype – yes

        Rumours had iphone dead on
        i don’t remember last when the media / rumours
        were so very accurate

        prototypes, parts and numbers all bang on

        Tim, stood on stage claiming secrecy would be strengthened

        what a joke – he should be fired for such a thing

  4. Also realize that for apple to ship 3-5 million units in one week the supply chain has to be huge and being around for a few months. Given the multile vendors are involved it is not surprising that parts get leaked.

    Note that these all came from vendors not from apple itself.

  5. Giving lip service to corporate secrecy means that you can operate in the open with no fear of leaks. Who cares, Cook said. They’re crawling all over everyone here to do our PR work for us.

    Well played.

  6. When you have a product roll-out year after year that exceeds all expectations and you can’t make enough products to meet demand, and you try to avoid that the next time, you make more, have more people involved, and risk more leaks. But the payoff is that there is more product available to avid fans.

    And you still sell out pre-orders in 60 minutes…

  7. Damn! I was going to point out that the article did NOT actually answer the question posed in the headline. But MDN got it right!

    it’s not Apple employees who are leaking, it’s the third-party assemblers in China

    If you’re going to foist your manufacturing into a country with culture of deceit, of course they’re going to leak every little thing they can sneak out of the factories. We’re talking about China here. China: Criminal Nation. Why would Cook be surprised? There are always an inconvenient consequences of buying into the Slave Wage Labor Movement. Apple has been hit with them all, more than most.

    1. Another problem, related to Apple’s unprecedented popularity, is the attention of TechTard journalists. How well we here remember the mutant rape gangs of TechTard journalists aligned with now moribund Microsoft. They’ve all flocked into the Apple camp while remaining just as inept and unscrupulous.

      The Result: 2012 is easily the worst year for bogus Apple rumors. There has literally been at least one idiotic Apple rumor posted every business day this year. Not that they’re original. My faves are the stupider rumors that elaborate upon the already stupid rumors. You can’t beat building a mountain of fecal matter all in the name of ‘technology news’ and ‘financial news’. Incredibly addictive ineptitude. TechTardiness is the new fad. 😯

  8. Tim Cook is Mr. Nice guy it’s hard to keep things hush hush when no one is afraid of him. With Steve his reputation preceded him, and everyone including suppliers did not want to suffer the wrath of Steve, Tim not so much.

  9. Eisenhower kept “Operation Overlord” secret, and he was coordinating an effort across dozens of nations & languages with a supporting effort of, arguably, almost every company in the USA and free Europe. Granted, people cared about freedom more than they cared about the next phone.

    Methinks Apple could do a better job of information protection if it tried. Perhaps it could start by doing more production in-house. Don’t care about location, just stop relying on companies like Samsung and Foxconn to build your products. The bad press and loss of intellectual property, not to mention untold logistical costs, simply have not been worth it.

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